On the beat in Cherry Hill, young officer brings in three targets

Amid the deluge of be-on-the-lookouts and other information dumped on Southern District officers during afternoon roll call Friday, there are three names that stick out to Officer Andre Smith Jr.

They are the light rail robbery suspect, the suspected Westport drug dealer, and the Juvie.

At only 25 years of age, Smith, a product of Baltimore's east side, already has seven years on, after joining the force as a cadet upon graduation. He's young, talks fast, cares about the people on his post, and is eager to impress.

The best way to prepare for an evening spent with Smith as part of the Baltimore Police Department's community open house night? "Hope you have your running shoes on," says Officer Timika Dyson, who works in neighborhood service.

Smith is the post officer for Cherry Hill, a traditionally violent neighborhood that hasn't seen a single homicide this year, and he knows just where to find the light rail robbery suspect. He's locked up Cyrus Bishop three of the five times that the 23-year-old with twists in his hair has been arrested this year. Most of the cases have been dropped by city prosecutors.

On a second pass through the area, the suspect is exactly where Smith thought he'd be, sitting on a railing outside a housing project. He protests his arrest, as do some relatives who catch wind of what's going on, but Smith places him in the back of a patrol wagon without incident.

Smith is back in his squad car only a few moments when a report of a serious fire comes across the radio. It's in Westport, an area Smith knows well enough that his name and expletives were once tagged on the side of a building. Smith guns the engine and arrives quickly. While there, he shoos away two cars carrying men he believes are in the area only to buy drugs.

"You live at 4426? There's not a 4426," Smith says, leaning into a red Mitsubishi and pointing out a wad of money in the center console. "I know what's going on. I don't want to see this car around here."

After Smith leaves the scene of the fire, he spots Sean Mouzon, 26, who got nine years for drug and gun charges in 2005 but hasn't been arrested since. Earlier, officers said they raided the suspect's house while he wasn't home and found more than 100 pieces of heroin, crack and marijuana. Smith calls his sergeant on the phone and asks what to do.

"Dre, do what you do best," Sgt. David Crites tells him. "We are not leaving any guys on the street to commit more crimes or get murdered."

He returns to the district briefly to get a new pair of handcuffs (his only pair are on Bishop), take a swig from a grape soda and grab a Twizzler. The chances that Mouzon is still in the same spot are slim, Smith acknowledges. But when Smith drives back into Westport, there he is, standing on the corner, shirtless and sipping a drink from a disposable cup.

Smith places him in the car and tells him he's just serving a warrant. But he also purposefully lets him sit there for a few minutes before pulling off, as people around the neighborhood wander over to see what's going on. Smith wants them to know Mouzon, well known by police and in the community, has been busted.

"I'm two-for-two," Smith proclaims.

Smith's now ready to drive around his post a bit, with an eye on catching the Juvie (The Baltimore Sun does not identify people charged as juveniles). He's explaining his plan when out of the corner of his eye, he sees a group of about 10 kids on a corner. Among them is the Juvie.

Smith pulls a U-turn and drives up. As he grabs the Juvie, calling him by a neighborhood nickname, the others scatter.

The Juvie protests: That's not his name. But Smith knows otherwise. After a Police Explorer — a member of a sort of Boy Scouts program of the Police Department — was robbed, detectives had a Facebook picture of one of the suspects but not a name. Smith easily identified the boy for them based on a prior arrest.

The Juvie says he hasn't done anything, but then asks if this is "about the assault." At the station, his friends show up to make a complaint about Smith and back down when they find out he was picked up on a warrant and not just rounded up for any old reason. As it turns out, police were trying to figure out the others involved in the assault, and these three may be as good a place to start as any.

The Juvie waits to be transported, sitting with his hands cuffed outside the station. He and Smith trade friendly barbs, with Smith reminding him that he locked him up before.

"Yeah and what happened with that one?" The Juvie says with a wide grin. "I beat it."

This is the uncanny knack of a good patrol officer: to not only know his area, but for his area to know him. While he's scuffled with some of these suspects in the past, they all comply on this day. Smith heads back out to patrol some more, boasting of his accomplishment to most officers he encounters, including asserting to his sergeant that he's entitled to a honeybun.

"There was three people they read off on roll call, and they're off the street within the first hour and 50 minutes," he says. "That's a good day so far, but we have a long way to go."


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